To Ai, with felicitations; and to bridesmaid Annie of the Valley:
May your lives be lived full, lovely…
To Ai, with felicitations; and to bridesmaid Annie of the Valley:
May your lives be lived full, lovely…
Posted in Snippets |
The good men of PAS: But good people do not equal good politicians.
For 12 days from July 15, Zaid Ibrahim, in that series of four articles, painted a picture of what it would be like for Malaysia after Najib Razak and after Umno. They were filled with optimism.
Malaysia now has a corps of honest and capable Malay leaders, he wrote, waiting in the wings to fulfill their destiny, leading Malays in particular into a promised future. Which, of course, reads like a biblical tale: Moses leading the Israelite tribe out of the darkness of Egypt into a new, promised land overflowing with milk and honey.
Zaid’s basis for optimism (in ‘A New Hope‘):
‘Thousands and thousands of Malay-Muslims wait to hear [from] you across the land. They want something refreshing and truthful…, they are sick of the present politics…, they are tired of having to choose [between] a corrupt bunch of Malays and a bunch of [good-for-nothing] ulamas….’
Two primary conditions are needed for the task of fulfilling that optimism, he added:
Zaid made special mention of the following men (mostly from Harapan Baru, the group of people who had defected from PAS):
Why only Malays and why only well-meaning men? Zaid (in ‘A New Hope’):
‘Progressive Malay-Muslims must be the buffer between racists and the targets of [their] racism (increasingly the Chinese)…. Progressive Malays-Muslims are our last hope against the hand-chopping Hadi Awang and Co….’
In ‘Malay leaders of quality‘, Zaid:
‘Everybody, including non-Malays, accepts that Malaysia, as a predominantly Malay-Muslim country, needs to be led by a predominantly Malay-Muslim leadership.’
Zaid’s past and present political commentaries are not always intellectually sound. But, on their first reading, his arguments tend to be very persuasive, in this instance, on both moral and political grounds. Indeed, Malays are the majority; indeed, who wouldn’t wish to live in a land overflowing in milk and honey; indeed, who wouldn’t want competent rulers, who are at the same time fair and just? Zaid has that knack for turning the abstract (fair, just) into the banal (hand-chopping Hadi Awang and Co).
His contradictions are, however, more numerous. In past articles he has called for Mahathir Mohamad to join with the forces of Anwar Ibrahim and Pakatan to bring down Najib Razak, the same thing Lim Kit Siang has since repeated after him. Zaid had deliberately or conveniently ignored that it was Mahathir who institutionalized race politics, brought Islam into its mechanisms as well as the workings of government, and centered authoritarian power on the prime minister’s office then corrupting it with patronage on an unprecedented scale. (For proof of this, look at the collapse of the tin industry, or at Perwaja or MAS or Francis Yeoh’s YTL). This, in the present imbroglio, was like inviting – again – the wolf to look after the chicken’s pen.
For a more lasting transition of politics into something more worthwhile and meaningful, an answer to Zaid’s concerns ought to have been a systemic overhaul of executive authority, beginning with elementary changes (de-fang the ulama’s powers for example) and a decentralization of administrative power away from Putrajaya (retaining only oversight authority on agencies such as the National Electricity Board or the National Highway Authority).
Zaid’s latest set of arguments, relying on morality and demographic politics, appears to justify an attempt at finding a replacement for Umno. He has in mind Harapan Baru. His arguments for power to go to Harapan Baru are the exact same ones that had made for Umno’s own raison d’etre and, after which, to provide the foundations for its rise and rise and rise until power had accumulated to the extent that it now is, residing in the person of only the prime minister.
Umno says Malaysia must be led by only a Muslim Malay; Zaid says the same thing. For the purpose of peace, and the ingredients necessary to that – inter alia, material well-being, intellectual progress, spiritual development – Umno says the interests of the Malays must first be looked after, something the Chinese should accept; Zaid makes similar arguments.
Thus we have Zaid’s version of race politics, wrapped in a sort of half-baked Kantian categorical imperative – using Reason to argue your way into acting good, as opposed to simply accepting the inevitability of evil so as to mitigate against it.
Zaid is also wrong on many other aspects.
In relying on man and his morality to lead – and such a man must be Malay Muslim – it gives the Malays no other grounds to consider why another man could be better than, say, Mahathir Mohamad to be prime minister. Indeed, it was the Malays who birthed the monster Mahathir, not because he was intellectually and administratively more capable than the next Umno person but simply because of his morality-politics (looking after the Malays more aggressively than others) and because he is Malay.
Given this sort of consideration, why then should it matter to Malays if their leader is corrupt when, to begin with, honesty is hardly a criterion for selection? Given this way of thinking, the Malay electorate would even welcome Adolf Hitler so long as he gives the Malays what they were promised – money, positions, power.
Long before the present mess, six years to be precise, Tengku Razaleigh (here) would despair at the state of Umno, complaining that its internal party machinery had been hijacked and then made to primarily serve the dictatorial wishes of an all-powerful party president. Razaleigh wanted such a leadership curtailed but not the Umno system reconstructed. He does not see that once you make morality the single most important criterion (defending Malays in Umno’s case; defending Allah in the case of PAS) for picking a leader then you invariably shut out other, equally important elements. Common sense intelligence, the ability to reason, and simple human decencies are relegated to secondary importance.
In doing so, Razaleigh implicitly rejected the entire set of political workings as the root cause of the current political anarchy that is Malaysia. By ‘political workings’ we mean the mechanisms, beginning with Umno, and especially its over-riding, dominant role in Barisan thence to the executive government that had led to and finally settled on one person and then to be dependent on the same. Corruption in such a system would be inevitable.
Zaid’s arguments don’t differ much from the Umno script, mapped out since Independence. He had only redefined it for the greater purpose of a moral good, which is to replace the present government, which when not incompetent, is corrupt and dishonest. Like Umno’s raison d’etre (transl.: reason for being) that had relied on the Malay to benefit the Malay, Zaid relied on the goodness of men to replace the evil in men and to bring back goodness. But, men all the same.
Rather than to reconstruct an amoral polity to countermand the frailty in the flimsy human character*, Zaid puts too much trust in men. This penchant, to rely on the goodness of men, assumes only people like the evangelical politicians Hannah Yeoh and Lim Guan Eng are most capable of goodness. Inversely, Zaid’s implication is that people can’t be good without god. Yet, in contradiction, Zaid spits at the PAS mullahs.
His morality-politics hang too much, far too much, on unreliable things – man’s intentions and human character. Had not Mahathir began with good intentions, then Najib? Was it not always their first task upon assuming office to free people from the ISA jail only to put back, years later, more people into it? Morality, religious morality especially, has tended to provide the justification, hence the opening mechanism, for crackpots to assume power in Khmer Rouge Cambodia, in Taliban Afghanistan, and now in the present day Islamic State: previous regimes were simply evil and had to be overthrown, if not shot dead. After that they, too, turned evil.
*Postscript: If one were to doubt the frailty of the heart or its intentions, then ask the women (or the men) who once loved but can’t anymore.
Give her a room her own and money, and let her speak her mind and she will write a book one of these days. — Virginia Woolf
…in Malaysia, add air-conditioning.
Dear 安 妮
One of the older posts, from a year ago I think — from you or Ai? one forgets — speaks of you settling in PJ (or was it KL; see, forgetting again). The computer notebook was cranky and looked ready to give up but at least you had a room your own where you wrote lying down. That post haunts the memory more than all the others because of this other thing: the photo of a mattress on the floor, no bed frame, no divan.
Many Malaysians, especially those new to the city, live like this of course. But Malaysian bloggers, those dealing in politics in particular, tell next to nothing about their lives and I’m especially guilty of the charge. So that post stood out not just for the portrayal of starkness, but also for its deeply personal and endearing quality: a certain kind of emotion within the written lines that draws many readers to your blog, me included.
This way of portraying life — rather than to go on endlessly about Politician X stabbing Politician Y in the back — is that which makes for enriching our common, daily experiences. One discovers from you that we are not alone in our predicaments. Ai’s BigCat blog was like that and she excelled in infusing life into the pedestrian — boy-girl problems, family, work, and so on.
You speak of me, in person, but only in relation to Ai who no longer exists as a blogger and this is odd. Because to reply to you poses a dilemma: what to say when almost nothing is said of oneself. There was however a charge that I had wished for you, in person — or is it only your ass/arse? — to be thrown in jail. Now, why would I want of either? What possible gain or satisfaction is there in it? Were you disrupting the peace? No! Hardly. We were talking, were we not? Just talking, mind you. This crime of blasphemy has somehow to stop.
You have re-enrolled shuzheng into your blog. I can only wish that I should give you no cause for regrets.
PS: What on earth is an ‘ultra Chinese’?
Posted in Malaysia: Dialogue |
…and remember to take Sis Helen with you.
Time to shut up, she says. But just a bit? Poor Annie, she just don’t get it:
So, it’s now
And as my blogging captain Rocky wrote, the prime minister had agreed to such a suggestion,
Okay, guess, I need to tone down quite a bit from now onwards.
I have been writing quite a lot on race relation stuff after starting this blog.
If the cyberspace laws were tighten and I continue the way I am, I would probably be arrested and charged in court for I don’t know what.
Posted in Malaysia: Dialogue |
[Updated, in Postscript: Why Arrest and Prosecute Helen Ang]
Pukimak Cina: It’s the Chinese fault. Again. But the IGP, above, says something different — and sensible — for once.
The so-called Low Yat ‘incident’ was, in its origins, pretty straight, common enough, hence highly probable: theft. One of two boys (‘budak-budak‘) visiting Low Yat went to a handphone shop then snatched a phone shown to them. They ran, then to a lower floor where they were caught and handed to the police, taken away, locked up, but one of the boys was later released.
After which, and it is hereon, that the race part came in not initially at Low Yat, not at the police lockup where a budak-friend was detained, but outside those places. Back home, the out-of-lockup budak told others willing to listen — and willing to believe, all Malays probably — that ‘the racist Chinese’ (so says Wong Chen) cheated a ‘so sweet Melayu’ (Helen Ang), his buddy!
That’s to say, a Melayu budak made a race issue out of petty theft, and why? If it was to get his budak-friend out of lockup then it is a queer motive: the Malay mobs didn’t descend on the police station, where the boy was held, with their story of racist Chinese cheating innocent Melayu. Instead they went to Low Yat, looking to beat up Chinese, any Chinese, and to spill Chinese blood.
In a rephrasing, they wanted to believe what they have always been told and have heard countless times (think RPK, Helen Ang, Wong Chen, Jailani Harun, Zakhir Mohd) which is this: the Chinese are a shit, racist people; first they grabbed Tanah Melayu, now they are on the lookout to cheat the oh so-sweet, so innocent, so tolerant Melayu. Now, at Low Yat, they have the evidence and in a Chinese mall at that.
Farther below are the headline aftermath and thoughts of the Low Yat ‘incident’, with attributions to those who continue the sort of slander of the Chinese the Melayu budak would have had heard before, and then to employ it.
The IGP was right that this was not a racial issue to begin with, but theft. But he was wrong to say that the subsequent riot wasn’t a racial issue. It was. Papa Gomo might be one man who did the promotion of the line — the ‘racist, money-minded Chinese cheating the so-sweet, innocent Melayu’. Those who came after him commit to the exact same Papa Gomo train of slander:
Then come the politicians and their editorial hangers-on.
If Rafizi and the two Gans are right, then Low Yat is a strange outcome. There is no known record of a petty theft turned into a near full-blown race riot although race politics have existed for as long as there has been a Malaysia.
This then says that Rafizi and Gan had gotten the cause and effect backwards: it was Melayu-Chinese fighting (May 13, for example) that had led to the race politics. And race politics says essentially this: you represent your lot, I do for mine; all problems in between we talk and negotiate; no open campaign, no street politics, no street fights.
Such a model of politics seems sensible and sound, which would have explained the peace in a relatively open, diverse society and not because the Melayu are so-sweet and innocent and so giving. Then something else entered the equation. Mahathir Mohamad. He gave up race politics and substituted it with race domination, while PAS added the Islam dimension into the domination. In politics, all matters are negotiable. In domination, there is little or no room for negotiation and it is the defining characteristic of Mahathir’s rule.
This explains why people like Hazizi and Helen say things that boil down to the exact mirror replica of the Mahathir-script and Mahathirism:
‘you give an inch to the Chinese, they will then demand for more and more and more, everything in fact. The Chinese are, after all, by nature racist and money grubbing. Malays have been too kind, tolerant, and oh so-sweet for too long.’
Say all that long enough, often enough, they will be believed because race domination does not tolerate a looser, less rigid interpretation of who is supreme: the Malays, and that’s that. Even Wong Chen — ‘the technocrat’ — who crows about his intellectual acumen and contribution to PKR and to Anwar, buys into the script. Wong Chen might just say, in effect, ‘It has to be the fault of the Chinese because they are by nature racist whereas the Malays are oh, so-sweet.‘
But Wong Chen doesn’t matter. Waiting in the wings, listening in, indoctrinated into the doctrines of race supremacy are the Melayu budak-budak, Mahathir’s legacy boys not unlike Hazizi and Helen Ang. This is what those budak-budak might have wished for, thinking, and Pekida egging:
If the Chinese are so evil, so corrupt then they deserved to be punished. And to punish them, steal their phones. It is our right to steal from them; they stole our land didn’t they? They provoked us, didn’t they. They are racists and infidels aren’t they? And shouldn’t racists and infidels be punished? Pukimak Cina!
Onwards to Low Yat! Take all the phones! Then burn it!
Outside Low Yat, on the kerb, cheering with hand claps and hooting, Annie, Hazizi and Helen Ang are side-by-side behind a banner that reads: “WE TOLD YOU SO. CHINESE=RACIST. MELAYU=SO SWEET.”
Why also arrest Helen Ang and Hazizi Rahman
It wasn’t just Papa Gomo who alone, one man, could provide the racial provocation. His method was simply crass, more upfront, a stick-in-your-face style. Long before the two budak-budak understood anything about politics, both now in the lockup, but alongside Papa Gomo, Helen Ang, Hazizi and Annie had been tilling the respective ground with their kind of racial provocation, more subtle, more ideological, more insidious and therefore more fertilized and more incendiary. If the police are looking for provocateurs to Low Yat, start with Helen and go down Rocky Bru’s blog list; plenty there. The lives of many people are in ruins — and for nothing they did — by simply ending up in a wrong place at the wrong time.
The Ann-Haz-Hel Triad below: peddling Melayu sweets and Chinese poison.
Posted in Malaysia: Dialogue |
My Anjing’s Life according Wong Chen
Zakhir Mohd or Big Dog fancies himself as Germanic: Biggum Dogmannsteinberg. Yet he takes exception to a speech by Wong Chen, Kelana Jaya PKR MP, because of the imported quality in the hatchet jobs done on Najib Razak:
[B]y admitting to associating themselves to the work of rogue elements (namely Sarawak Report) from abroad, the Opposition is a threat to the national security.
Then Zakhir gloats over Wong’s admission of the Chinese countrymen:
the Chinese are racist.
From reading those inanities, it’s no wonder the like of Zakhir are reporters such as Apanama or Helen Ang or Jailani Harun, so alike Kadir Jasin and John Berthelsen, like Bloomberg reporters and Wall Street Journal….
Of course Wong Chen’s speech to the foreign reporters in Hong Kong deserves a rebuttal. Yet the way Zakhir puts it, he has nothing to say, nothing to rebut, other than to instigate for the man’s arrest, like so many crack tinpot heads from 50, 30 years ago.
Wong is a threat to national security? Because he adopts a foreign element, Sarawak Report, as a political weapon? If this were true — the imported nature of the politics — Najib would have to be jailed a thousand lifetimes over and over again. Zakhir sounds as banal as the IGP and Ahi Attan (he once called for the jailing of any Chinese who dares to be Chinese) and you’ve to wonder, again, how in tian‘s name is Malaysia served by the media populated by the like of him (or Jailani or Ahi or Helen).
Wong Chen’s infantile parts of his speech, therefore most damaging to himself and the Opposition, wasn’t the Sarawak Report (SR), available to anyone with an Internet line and a computer. This says Wong’s understanding of 1MDB and Najib, relying entirely on SR, was an inadvertent admission that neither the PKR nor the DAP knows much about what’s going on in the country or within the governing machinery. They have neither information nor expertise with which to clobber Najib, running the country much less.
The contentious parts of Wong’s speech, which you would have heard said in countless ceramahs, are everywhere. He is, after all, talking to the naive and the imbeciles of the foreign press corp, but one will just take two broad categories:
Those lines are tied together, so we’ll take them together because they reflect the underlying religious-moral dimension in Pakatan politics: Catholic socialism in PKR, Christian evangelism in DAP and Islamism in PAS. In them, Jesus and Allah are everywhere, infecting their thoughts, speeches and policies. Like nationalism, these are imported, mass, populist ideologies so when Wong Chen finds the masses — the people — saying things contrary to party and political expectations, he doesn’t know quite what to do. He finds a culprit to lay blame. And who else is most convenient?
Then Wong Chen conveniently ignores telling, or is ignorant of the fact, that the seeds of the public disenchantment and the growing discord had their beginnings in Anwar Ibrahim’s Malay-Islam ketuanan. Despite his association with Anwar, Wong, who crows about himself being a ‘technocrat’, still hasn’t learn a thing because Anwar is the man he repeatedly calls ‘our Leader’ (yes, with a capital L).
Now that we have a beloved Leader, some even call him Savior, all wrapped in deep religiosity, is it any wonder they are followers and disciples — the people most prone to behaving erratically — because, after all, religion is erraticism writ large: it is founded not on well-thought out, rationalised ethics but on voodoo thoughts. So who influenced who?
When the government has lost its moral compass, Wong Chen assumes there was one in the beginning, not realizing nor knowing that politics is an amoral endeavor. Once you stick God into the business, you find you have to please God at the same time as man, so the question that keeps recurring in Malaysian politics is, whose God should we appease? If the ‘compass’ had existed, if it was there to begin with, who then dropped that damn thing into Putrajaya? What sort of a compass was it? The demon’s?
If the PKR or the DAP reflects the politics of hope, then Anwar and Wong Chen and Lim Kit Siang reflect the politics of hopelessness. Under Umno, there is hope to change it, either from within or out. With PKR you give up. So dogged sure are they, there is not a chance in the world you can change their minds. And wannabe fascists are like that.
Here Wong Chen doesn’t even know what is it he is saying. Because if he does, then he is acknowledging that he is actually in bed with a racist woman, his wife; his children, being racists, are beyond redemption; and the DAP with which the PKR sleeps with is racist through and through. If, therefore, the nature of a Chinese is racism, then no change is possible. Take all that and coupled them with the fact that he draws electoral support on racist Chinese votes, then there is only this conclusion left: Wong Chen is an uber-racist, Chinese to boot.
Calling the Chinese racist and the Malays sweet-nature is precisely the thing pointed to and mapped out by the moral compass that Wong Chen says his lost from the government — like 1MDB money is lost. Which is, of course, weird: Here is the moral compass of present and past Umno governments that for the last 50, 60 years has had only one primary morality: the Chinese are a shit people and the Malays are heaven sent. Yet here is Wong Chen despairing at the loss of that compass.
Wong Chen’s accusations against the Chinese and his fawning for the Malays is not new and not exclusive to him: think Petra Kamarudin or Helen Ang. But the difference is this: he is not saying it in a Kelana Jaya ceramah but to a bunch of gweilos who, someday, he will need their help for Plan B to run away, tail between legs, from Umno, from the police and from Malaysia.
There is another, deeper contradiction in Wong Chen’s words, and this is the destination-fruits of the morality compass he pontificates about. What are those destination-fruits? Look no farther but at the Malay Zakhir Mohd. He is so sweet, is he, this pit dog? And so is Anwar and Ibrahim Ali and Mahathir Mohamad and those PAS mullahs, all so sweet, waiting to stone some beer-drinking Melayu and waiting to hang Najib by the balls.
Or consider those Malay MACC investigators asking some politician aides like Teoh Beng Hock if he is Chinese, or if he is descended from China, as if being Chinese is a crime. Is Wong Chen, therefore, any different from the MACC men? One day in Wong Chen’s PKR policies — if it comes to that — being Chinese might become illegal and not just a crime. That is the implication in his racism and in PKR-DAP’s fascism.
But pity Wong Chen: what a dog; what an anjing’s life he is.
Posted in Malaysia: Dialogue |
Zaid in the middle, sort of.
We are captivated as we watch his attempt at prolonging Mahathirism, as if we have a democratic choice – that is extra-democratic actually – as he makes righteousness the issue and we are conned into taking his side purportedly to save the very democratic ideals which he had discarded, neglected and ridiculed when he was in power. (Emphasis added.)
Umar’s lines require elaboration, and we shall take those highlighted.
To try and remove Najib Razak, Mahathir Mohamad stood on the leg of a principle he invented: the good party Umno or the demon thief Najib. The simplification in such a choice-presentation had been tried before when, with Tun Razak’s help (now to the despair of son Najib), Mahathir wiggled his way back into Umno on the strength of this argument: the good strong Malay or the spineless Malay subservient to the Chinaman.
Mahathir is widely talked about as a man with both a crafty and an intellectual mind — something of a person who could see things beyond his time. Yet, nothing, not one line even, in The Malay Dilemma could attest to either.
The Malay, 40, 50 years ago easily bought into the options he presented because, then, there was no contradiction in the choices between Malay and Chinese.
Today, the common Melayu looking in from the outside would have — actually, must have — found the choices given him both bizarre and odd.
Umno is a good party? But it is rigged from the inside out, and everybody knows or suspect at least that the party serves primarily in this time and age as the ultimate conduit to money, power, positions. Mahathir exacerbated those characteristics more than any prime minister before and after.
Next, there is the question of Najib’s integrity. If Najib is a thief, then he has to be Umno’s thief. If true, what’s so new about that, or bad even?
Because the first set choices don’t quite make sense, don’t work and don’t jell, Mahathir relies on the other leg of the principle he didn’t invent: righteousness. Hence, you hear him say repeatedly as if he were such a magnanimous, tolerant person: “No bridge is okay. Working with Singapore also okay. All those I can accept. Every prime minister has his own policies. But the government money, 1MDB, all that lost and can’t be accounted for. That I cannot accept.“
Mahathir’s moral and ethical inferences are clear: Najib is an opaque, dark, self-serving man. And he has stolen.
So the choices Mahathir has presented stagger and lurch from the point of politics to the point of ethics, to the second set of choices, of between good and evil. But here was his problem: if righteousness is at stake, then what about Mahathir himself?
This explains why much of the defense of Najib goes into reminding Malaysia, not about Tun Razak’s contributions and his son’s inheritance of that legacy, but it is about Mahathir himself; he, too, is a scoundrel.
For those reasons above, none of the two sets of choices — democracy politics and ethics — Mahathir has argued over and over again draw much popular support. Never mind that though. The point is to consider those who actually sided with Mahathir and those who haven’t or don’t.
Unlike say 40, 50 years ago, neither the commoner Melayu nor Umno’s rank and file have gone riot on the streets of Kuala Lumpur to make urgent and forceful Mahathir’s crucifixion of Najib. Because, how can they? Any way or any how, Mahathir argues or presents his case, they just don’t make sense.
But, on the other hand, it is the politicians and the journalists, those with some measure of influence, who have been shouting the loudest, not for Najib but Mahathir. This pack of backers are a weird lot: people as poles apart as Lim Kit Siang, Zaid Ibrahim and John Berthelsen, large numbers of who were Mahathir opponents. Why?
They make their case not from the point of democracy politics, not even law, but hinged everything in their protests on the point of ethics. Which is also to say, they, persons usually thought off as clear-headed and rational, argue on the same script Mahathir wrote, that Najib is a thief. That or a moral bankrupt. You have only to read Malaysiakini or Zaid’s to see both the self righteous tone and the direction of their accusations.
Here then you have commoners staying out of this fight because something is clearly amiss, something is not right. Yet, on the other hand, are the political factions, people thought of highly, forming in a line behind Mahathir all because they think they have righteousness on their side, that they are clever and right. And in doing so, they willingly, for political considerations, side with Malaysia’s greatest bane of misery — Mahathir Mohamad. Small wonder, Malaysia is, as they say, in deep shit.